TAKE #27: these limited vinyl drops have me very aggy!

I’ve been collecting records regularly for about a year now. At the beginning of the panorama, I needed something to fill the void left when I stopped having my biweekly human contact, and filling my room with records became the ramen to my broken sink. And overall, it’s been a fun hobby (albeit very expensive); my record collection has grown a lot, and through the collecting process, I’ve been able to rekindle my appreciation for the physicality of the music-listening experience. Back when I did most of my music listening through my boomboxes and portable CD player, I had a decent-sized CD collection (that I still have and keep in my car for when Spotify starts acting up). And jumpstarting my record collection brought back some of the good feels I had while spending my little birthday pocket money on my insistence on having every Michael Jackson album. But something I’ve found increasingly annoying about the record collecting experience has been the increased attention that artists have placed on making records “limited releases.” 

You can see some of my records here!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I – like many other record collectors and music lovers – get a thrill out of the potential of owning something that only a couple thousand people in the world have. I’ve talked about my experience with last year’s Record Store Day before where I – in 7 minutes – was able to secure a copy of Denzel Curry’s “Bulls on Parade,” The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholy (2018), and Tyler the Creator’s Cherry Bomb (2015). There are only 12,750 of those records (altogether) in existence. And I’ve gotten copies of a few other exclusive records since then including the signed, holographic copy of The Weeknd’s After Hours (2020) and a cherry red variant of Joji’s BALLADS 1 (2018) from Turntable Lab. 

read about my first record store day experience here:

record store day 001

I didn’t really have anything to do for a TAKE on this week, so here I am to talk about my Record Store Day experience. Because…what a TIME that was. So, unfortunately, because we’re still in a pandemic, I was NOT interested in going out and being in anybody’s crowd at a record store. I … Continue reading record store day 001

Yesterday, after years of folks asking for more copies, Saba released a repress of his 2018 masterpiece CARE FOR ME. He started off with an initial drop of 1000 (with the first 50 being signed) and added another 1000 after seeing the demand. And both of those drops sold out within a minute of the record being added to his shop. I missed the first drop, but I used some of the things I learned during RSD to secure a copy from the second 1000. After a year of refusing to pay a reseller upwards of $300 for a copy, I’d finally gotten one for $39 (plus shipping). 

And I feel AMAZING about that. CARE FOR ME is an album that means a lot to me, and I’m happy to finally have a copy. The problem I have is how this release worked (and this isn’t exclusive to Saba; I’m just using this situation as an example). The project was originally released through Vinyl Me Please, so there was confusion on exactly where the album would be sold this time. With this, there wasn’t clear communication from Saba and his team on how many records would be released (people found out the numbers afterward). And to make matters worse, Saba’s merch shop was password protected (by a code he was going to give out to people who signed up to receive texts “from him” at a set time) that was shared (not by Saba) on a vinyl subreddit that allowed folks to buy the record before Saba sent the code out to everyone (so some of the first 1000 were sold out before the actual release time); and there have been Twitter accounts that have boasted about using bots to buy copies of the record. Plus, there are the folks who were only waiting for the release to resell the project. So now, there are multiple copies of the record on eBay selling for $140+, and there are actual fans who have been waiting for a re-release who still don’t have a copy. 

Since this happened, Saba mentioned that he was unaware (I don’t know how) that the album was so in demand and said he’d get some more repressed. Which is great, but that doesn’t remove how burned people feel from this experience. Folks had one minute (each drop) to beat out resellers and bots (and people who bought multiple copies “for a friend”) to get a copy of a record with an unknown quantity. And the “checking out” process was even worse because you’d essentially initiate the process by clicking checkout after adding the record to your cart, and once you did that, you were placed “in line.” Once in line, you still weren’t guaranteed to get the record. You had to get through the entire checkout process before the record was yours. So if you were the 501st person in line and 500 people in front of you were all getting the record, you’d lose out, even if you were only a millisecond of a click away from buying it (and that check out process wasn’t explained to fans beforehand, so there were folks “in line” for 12 minutes waiting to checkout, when 11 minutes before then, the record had sold out). 

I get independent artists have a harder time doing things like this because they don’t necessarily have the logistical bandwidth that a larger artist has to do a drop like this. And I also get that an album can’t be available forever, and there is something fun about a limited release. But why not just do a pre-order? You can guarantee that all the people who want the record will buy it, and now you have the money and can get the record produced. That way, you make your sales, and your fans don’t hate you. And this situation is coming on the heels of a few other botched limited releases, including one by The Weeknd. He was selling $100 and $40 10th anniversary versions of House of Balloons (2011) (the price difference depended on the cover of the album you got), and the $100 version was supposed to be limited to 1000 copies. Within an hour, The Weeknd turned around and made it an unlimited pre-order. Which was cute because folks who wouldn’t have been able to get one (including your girl who found out about the release two hours later) got one, but folks who’d bought it thinking it was a limited release were angry because it felt like he lied. Part of that might have been because some of those people were planning to resell it, but I still get the irritation. 

There’s also something to be said about this kind of commodification of art. While these kinds of releases are supposed to make an album more valuable, it feels like it cheapens the work to a certain extent. It becomes less about what that album says and means to people and more about the album’s resell value or place in the “grailz” hierarchy. That doesn’t mean that the album completely sheds its original purpose, but the conversation switches gears. It gives me the same vibe as when an artist drops a deluxe version of an album for no reason. We didn’t need those five songs you took off the album during the first cut. You took them off for a reason (but it some cases *cough cough* Eternal Atake (Deluxe) (2020) *cough cough* it does make the original better), and now it feels like the second release was just a money-making ploy. And I guess this is one of those places where my inner musical purist comes out. Make art for the sake of making art; sell it when you want (I’m always here for Black folks getting their coin), but don’t make that be what people take away from the things you make. 

here’s something else you might like…

TAKE #25: the grammy’s are coming up and here’s why i have beef

Oof. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! All of the takes I have had recently have stayed #showerthoughts, but my irritation with the upcoming Grammy Awards needs to manifest itself into words on the internet. It’ll be the subject of conversation for the next two TAKEs actually, with next week’s being … Continue reading TAKE #25: the grammy’s are coming up and here’s why i have beef

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